Bojan Bogdanovic, Fenerbahce Ulker
|In such an important season for Fenerbahce Ulker, with the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four to be played on its home turf in Istanbul, one of the first moves the club made over the summer was to sign scoring ace Bojan Bogdanovic. But after his first Euroleague two games with the Turkish giants, things were not looking pretty. FB Ulker was 0-2 and Bogdanovic had not yet made a basket. Player and club alike came together shortly, however. In six games since then, Fenerbahce has a 5-1 record and is tied for first place in Group A. Bogdanovic is the club's leading scorer over that stretch with 13.8 points per game. This week, in its last regular season home game, FB Ulker faces Gescrap BB with a Top 16 berth hanging in the balance. Bogdanovic and his teammates would rather travel to Cantu next week to play for first place than survival. During an intense week of preparations, Bogdanovic set a side time to chat with Euroleague.net about the unpredictable endgame awaiting all teams in Group A, the closes one in Euroleague history. "If we win, we're in. And if we lose, we go to Cantu to play for the Top 16," Bogdanovic told Euroleague.net. "But we have a good chance if we win to be first in our group. That's very important for us."
Hello Bojan. Congratulations for the big win in Nancy last week. How important was that in such a balanced group?
"It was a very big victory for us. Everything in our group has been so close and every win is so important, especially a win on the road. So it was definitely a very big victory for us."
It was your first Euroleague start this season after seven games off the bench. Do you have any preference on starting or not?
"It doesn't matter for me. I will play however coach wants. We have a lot of good players at my position, so it's normal that I share minutes. It's no problem if I don't start. I am comfortable starting and I am happy to come in from the bench."
Fenerbahce lost its first two games but has managed to win 5 of the last 6. What changed?
"We are playing much better defense now and there is better chemistry between the players. I think that is what changed. I also think our coach and my teammates have more confidence in me. I have two teammates here that I know from the Croatian national team and they have helped me a lot. So now I am playing better than in the beginning."
You will face Gescrap BB this week needed a win to reach the Top 16. Is that extra pressure or extra motivation?
"I think it's extra motivation for us because if we win, we're in. And if we lose, we go to Cantu to play for the Top 16. But we have a good chance if we win to be first in our group. That's very important for us. We want to be first so that in the Top 16 we won't face such good teams like CSKA or Real Madrid, who are in great shape. So it's important for us to finish the group in first place."
You already won in Bilbao earlier this season. What do you have to do to beat Gescrap again?
"They are very good on offense and very good in transition. Marko Banic is having a great season. They have Aaron Jackson and some other good players. But we beat them in Bilbao and I think with the help of our supporters here in Istanbul, we're going to win again."
Fenerbahce will get better when Mirsad Turkcan and Marko Tomas rejoin the team after injuries. How can they help when they come back?
"Mirsad is going to start playing maybe in another 10 days, but Marko may even be back for this game against Bilbao or the next game in Cantu. They are two players that are very important for us. Two more players in the rotation are important for us. Marko is a very good defensive player and a good shooter. Mirsad, too, is a good shooter, so they will help to open the paint and help the team a lot."
Your made your Euroleague debut with Real Madrid at age 18 four years ago, playing a couple of minutes only. What do you remember about that?
"I don't remember many details from that game. I remember more about last season with Cibona when I was playing almost 40 minutes every game. It's not the same to play for Cibona and Fenerbahce. I think every good player that starts at a club like Madrid when he is young thinks that in a few years he will be a star. I also expected that. But I didn't expect, after playing just 2 or 3 minutes per game for two years, or playing on the second team in Madrid, to be able to wind up at a club like Fenerbahce."
You have gone from being Cibona's top gun to being one of many good scorers in FB UIker. Was it difficult to adjust to this new role?
"It's a different job. Here, I am sharing minutes with good players. In Cibona, I didn't share minutes; I played 35 to 40 minutes every game. So sure it's different, but step by step I hope to keep getting better."
This is your first season in Istanbul. How do you like the city and playing for a giant multi-sport club like Fenerbahce?
"For me everything here is great. I have my teammates that I know from the [Croatian] national team, Marko and Roko, they help me a lot. Our coach, Neven Spahija, is Croatian. I have Gasper Vidmar and Emir Preldzic and we speak the same language and that has been very important for me to adjust and everything. We are connected with the Fenerbahce club. I have already been to see the football team and am going again next week. Everything is good now. Istanbul is a very big city, so I have not seen much yet."
Tuesday, December 13, 2011